The city above Toronto

Post by Eric Mang in ,

7 comments

vaughn-by-gord
The city of Vaughan, Ontario – bulldoze it and start fresh? Photo by Gord Price (see "Vaughan").

The slogan for the city of Vaughan is "the City Above Toronto". This uninspiring slogan can only be a geographical reference (it is indeed north of Toronto) and certainly not one of comparative righteousness or moral rectitude. At least not when it comes to municipal politics.

When I was a kid, you only went to Vaughan for Canada's Wonderland. Flanking highway 400, there were acres of farmland, punctuated with a big papier-mâché "mountain", soaring roller coasters and hectares of parking.

Today, Vaughan is a sprawling mess of sameness. Cookie-cutter houses and Mattamy McMansions, all roads and little public transit, big box stores and nowhere to walk. It's a bedroom community for Toronto, where every morning kilometers of cars idle on the 400, inching along, spending hours to travel to and from the big city.

But there's more to Vaughan than its rampant consumerism, addiction to growth, and milquetoast facade. Vaughan's municipal political scene is bizarre, possibly corrupt, and serves as an example of why municipal campaign finance reform is critical (get a big cup of coffee and read my post from a few weeks ago on municipal finance reform).

Last week, the Star reported that former Vaughan mayor Michael Di Biase is charged with 27 counts of alleged election finance "irregularities" including: "accepting cash from people not entitled to donate; failing to ensure contributions went to a campaign account; failing to ensure expenses were paid from campaign account; failing to keep proper records."

Current mayor, Linda Jackson, faces 68 allegations, including: "overspending; failing to ensure contributions went to a campaign account; failing to ensure that contributions of goods and services were valued in accordance with law; failing to keep proper records."

Councillor Bernie DiVona is accused of 44 accounts and stepped down as the head of the budget committee. According to an audit of DiVona's expenses, he used campaign funds to purchase a $1,710 espresso machine and $3,000 for work on his Woodbridge home.

Prior to this was an ugly municipal campaign full of dirty tricks and outrageous behaviour that saw Jackson squeak by with 90 votes. Her victory has been a Pyrrhic one and was contested by former mayor Michael Di Biase, who demanded recounts and initiated court action, accruing $576,431 in lawyer fees and costs.

If convicted, Di Biase will be barred from running in the next election and Jackson could be removed from office. Vaughan city council has allowed the charges to proceed.

Earlier this week, Vaughan's Task Force on Democratic Participation and Renewal released a report two-years-in-the-making that seeks to invigorate citizen interest in municipal government. Certainly, allegations of corruption at the highest levels in municipal government can sour voters.

So among the 19 recommendations from the Task Force are improvements to the way campaign cash is raised and spent, such as municipal tax rebates for individual campaign donations and donor list disclosure offered before election-day.

Vaughan must consider any proposal that washes the corrupt stink hanging over its city hall. Until then, voters will be disengaged; and that would be a shame for a city that desperately needs its citizens' voices.

7 Comments

For your info - the democratic renewal committee is as bogus as the earth is round. It's chaired by one of the "Dirty Nine" and his little buddies.....two of which are former EAs to none other than Sorbara (who himself has had some brushes with "non-regular " events ala Royal Plastics).....look carefully for the fraud in the making recommendations....

Fascinating article in this month's Toronto Life on the depth of corruption in Vaughan: http://www.torontolife.com/magazine/2009/10/

Eric you really shouldn't believe everything you read. I know that it is easy and often much fun to use stereotypes rather than try to find out the facts. For example did you know that Vaughan has more green space than any other GTA municipality - we opened 10 parks this year (and that has been our average for the last number of years). In April Council approved one of the most comprehensive Environmental Sustainability Plans in Canada - go take a look. It's called Green Directions Vaughan. And we are going to be embarking shortly on a program to dramatically expand our forest cover everywhere in the City. Sure, we have really ugly stretches of badly planned streetscapes, but doesn't every city?

It's very hard to control growth when you are year after year the fastest growing City in Canada. We all know that you sometimes pay a price for progress. But ask people who live in Vaughan about their City and I think you will find they love being here! Just ask the people who were hit by the tornadoes in August about they were treated by their neighbours and the City. I have yet to see or hear even one negative comment!

Sure I am now a Councillor - Ward 5 - Thornhill, but I lived in Vaughan since 1982. As a resident I could see the problems, but those problems were always many fewer than the positives I saw.

One more thing. I am not going to comment on some of my colleagues alleged actions (remember nothing has been proven at this time), but I will say that as the Chair of our Accountability and Transparency Committee I am totally proud of the work we have done in hiring an Integrity Commissioner (one of the first in Ontario), developing a complaints protocol and just a few weeks ago getting unanimous approval of Council for a new Code of Ethical Conduct for Members of Council. In my opinion the best municipal Code in Canada today.

If you ask me, they should have jail time. Any other regular person who defrauds the government at any level has the possibility to go to jail, so why not them??? And Mr. Dibiase can only not run in the next election? He and everyone else who's caught doing what they've done, barred for LIFE! This way it will deter anyone from doing it! With a slap on the wrist, they'll continue defrauding the system....Like come on people, wake up ans smell the stench!!! Lets make tougher laws for them, because they're supposed to be representing the people and be law abiding!!!! Bring out all the pictures they have standing next to the police! What a crock of hypocricy!

This blog is causing many on Council a great headache. The owner behind it is uncovering municipal corruption and now facing threats of lawsuits by some very influential residents. Seems they are all doing business behind closed doors. And they don't like their names mentioned along with the Councillor alleged to be siphoning his electrical company work thru his elected seat.

There have been 7 formal requests for a judicial review submitted last month. The City refuses to respond. This is a violation of the municipal act.

I see Councillor Sheffman writes in above. Ironically it was him and some of council who asked for the Mayor's resignation for abuse of her expense account. Pennies when faced with the above allegation and the other regional councillor's son who made $1million in less than 4 years thru work at the city, where his companies names are not even listed on the preferred vendor list. And all work generated for him was thru emergency field purchase orders, requiring no tender and all under $3,000 each. (You do the math!)

Mr. Sheffman is mute now. Is he complicit? Not wanting to 'out' what really is going on?

Read the blog. It is causing the ripping away of the strip-mall facade, revealing the viper infested muck, underneath.

http://cityofvaughancitizensgroup.blogspot.com/

Richard Lorello is uncovering the truth. Risking alot to do it.

No judicial review being mentioned, despite residents formal requests. Yet, only one conflict against Hazel in Mississauga. Many many here.

The members of council are working complicitly not in the benefit of residents, but to protect eachother.

It is going to be an interesting year.

http://cityofvaughancitizensgroup.blogspot.com/

Don't be fooled.

Richard Lorello's BFFF is Mayor Jackson.

You'll never find a critical thing about her on the blog, because she basically helps him write his content. He's a mouthpiece for her in the disguise of a concerned citizen.

His ultimate agenda is to get elected as a Conservative MP.

But other than being on a string for the mayor and his Conservative party, he actually brings up good stuff.

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